32 Best Mentor Texts for Narrative Writing in Elementary School

Help students learn from the best.

Examples of mentor texts including My Papi has a Motorcycle and Soul Food Sunday
We Are Teachers; Elayne Crain via Amazon reviews; AmandaD. via Amazon reviews

Kids have many stories to tell, but teaching narrative writing well takes work. Mentor texts for narrative writing are invaluable for showing kids how it can be done, and for taking their writing to the next level. These are the books you pore over together that both model and inspire. Your writing curriculum probably suggests some old standbys, but new titles always bring new energy and ideas. We’ve done the work for you to find fresh, diverse, engaging, (mostly) first-person mentor texts for narrative writing that may just become your new favorites. You’re welcome!

1. & 2. Together We Ride and Together We Swim by Valerie Bolling

Book cover for Together We Ride as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon
Book cover for Together We Swim
Amazon

This pair of books takes telling the stories of the classic experiences of learning to ride a bike and learning to swim to the next level. A sister and brother persevere through fears and challenges with the help of their parents. Add these to your mentor texts for narrative writing for younger students who use mostly pictures and a few words. There are so many small visual details to notice that can encourage students to add more to their own drawings.

Buy it: Together We Ride on Amazon

Buy it: Together We Swim on Amazon

3. New Shoes by Chris Raschka

Book cover for New Shoes as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

A child discovers his old shoes are too tight and heads to the shoe store to pick out new ones. Use this to show new writers how they can tell a great story with just a few sentences. You can also introduce new techniques for illustrations; all these pictures are delightfully zoomed in.

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Buy it: New Shoes on Amazon

4. One Day, the End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Book cover for One Day, The End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories
Amazon

“One day, I lost my dog. I found him. The end.” This collection of tiny tales is one of the most perfect mentor texts for narrative writing to introduce kids to the idea that a story is when something happens. Use it with your littles to teach them how to add a sentence or two to their illustrations that tell a story from their lives.

Buy it: One Day, the End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories on Amazon

5. Granny and Bean by Karen Hesse

Book cover for Granny and Bean as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

Granny and Bean go for a walk on a cloudy day. They enjoy all the simple pleasures of the beach, like waves, shells, sand, petting dogs, and seaside snacks. Use this to share an attainable example of a strong narrative for younger writers. Each page has only a short sentence or two, but they manage to tell a beautiful story.

Buy it: Granny and Bean on Amazon

6. Bábo: A Tale of Armenian Rug-Washing Day by Astrid Kamalyan

Book cover for Babo: A Tale of Armenian Rug-Washing Day as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

We love this story of the author’s favorite summer chore—helping her grandmother clean the family’s rugs—to help kids see stories in their daily lives. From dancing in soap bubbles to scrubbing, sliding, and mopping, the author stretches the experience into a delightful tale. Help kids notice the mix of sentence lengths and unexpected details that give the story its fun energy.

Buy it: Bábo: A Tale of Armenian Rug-Washing Day on Amazon

7. Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate

Book cover for Grandad's Camper
Amazon

A granddaughter explains all the reasons she loves visiting her grandad’s house—most of all, it’s because of the stories he tells about the many adventures he and Gramps had in their camper. It hasn’t felt the same since Gramps died, but a granddaughter-grandfather camping trip to the beach turns out to be just what everyone needs. This story is lovely for studying how to establish setting in a narrative, and how to include flashback moments effectively.

Buy it: Grandad’s Camper on Amazon

8. The Secret Fawn by Kallie George and Elly MacKay

Book cover for The Secret Fawn as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

As the youngest sibling, a girl feels like she misses everything—including the deer her family saw in the yard. She heads outdoors to try to see it for herself and ends up having an even more special experience. Use this quiet little story to show kids how to focus their narrative on a small but significant event.

Buy it: The Secret Fawn on Amazon

9. Hiking Day by Anne Rockwell

Book cover for Hiking Day as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

A girl and her parents take a local hike to enjoy all the sights and sounds of fall. Use this to teach about adding more to a narrative by including details, thoughts, sounds, and dialogue.

Buy it: Hiking Day on Amazon

10. City Moon by Rachael Cole and Blanca GĂłmez

Book cover for City Moon as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

A boy and his mom take a walk in the city at night to look for the moon. Add this to the mentor texts for narrative writing you use to teach about bringing the setting to life. Also, show students how to stretch one brief experience into a story that feels important.

Buy it: City Moon on Amazon

11. Not Little by Maya Myers

Book cover for Not Little as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

Dot is the smallest person in her family, but she doesn’t hesitate to stand up for the new kid when he’s bullied in the cafeteria. (Clearly, she is NOT LITTLE!) Use this to teach about strong, impactful sentences. Plus, introduce the technique of using a repeating line to show readers what’s important in your story.

Buy it: Not Little on Amazon

12. A-Train Allen by Lesley Younge

Book cover for A-Train Allen as an example of mentor texts for personal narrative writing
Amazon

Race along with the main character as he dashes to the train station. (Spoiler: At the end, we discover it’s so he can be on time to chivalrously meet his grandmother.) This is one of the few mentor texts for narrative writing included on this list that isn’t written in the first-person, but it made the cut because it’s such a relatable title for showing kids how to bring a small moment to life using impactful verbs. They’re conveniently capitalized on every page!

Buy it: A-Train Allen on Amazon

13. My Baba’s Garden by Jordan Scott

Book cover for My Baba's Garden
Amazon

A boy spends time before and after school with his grandmother each day. He describes his Baba, her tiny house, and her actions with gorgeous precision. This will be one of your new favorite mentor texts for personal narrative writing to show students how carefully chosen words and details can be so powerful.

Buy it: My Baba’s Garden on Amazon

14. Grandpa Is Here! by Tanya Rosie

Book cover for Grandpa is Here!
Amazon

Tap into the excitement so many kids feel about being reunited with a special family member. A girl and her parents meet her Iranian grandfather at the airport and bring him home for a family welcome dinner. Add this to your mentor texts for personal narrative writing that show kids how to include their internal monologue and model “show don’t tell.”

Buy it: Grandpa Is Here! on Amazon

15. Abuelita and I Make Flan by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom

Book cover for Abuelita and I Make Flan
Amazon

Anita is excited to help her grandmother make her birthday dessert—so excited that she breaks her grandmother’s special plate. Can she help enough to make up for it? Use this to show kids how to add flair to their narratives with speech bubbles, labels, and different types of text. Also use it to encourage kids to try to include the narrator’s internal monologue in their writing.

Buy it: Abuelita and I Make Flan on Amazon

16. When Lola Visits by Michelle Sterling

Book cover for When Lola Visits as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

With rich detail, a girl describes how summer smells, tastes, and feels when her grandmother visits from the Philippines. Use this to teach about adding sensory details to narrative writing.

Buy it: When Lola Visits on Amazon

17. Oh No, the Aunts Are Here by Adam Rex

Book cover for Oh No, the Aunts Are Here
Amazon

They arrive in a flurry of big purses and hugs, with their coconut scent, spit-polishing thumbs, and big dreams of seeing the Quilt Museum. This hilarious account of a visit from a kid’s over-the-top aunts is one of the most fun mentor texts for narrative writing you’ll find for teaching students how to bring characters to life in their stories.

Buy it: Oh No, the Aunts Are Here on Amazon

18. The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann

Book cover for The Camping Trip as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

City-dweller Ernestine is so excited to go camping with her cousin. It turns out there are a few parts of the great outdoors that take some getting used to, though. Use this to teach about experimenting with speech bubbles and different page layouts as a way to add interest and detail to narrative pieces.

Buy it: The Camping Trip on Amazon

19. Joy Ride by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Book cover for Joy Ride as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

Joy finds a beat-up bike and convinces her tinkering granddad to help her fix it up. But when her peers make fun of her new ride, she makes the impulsive decision to push the bike down a steep hill, and then must face the feelings that follow. Use this as a solid example of a more detailed personal narrative that includes dialogue, characters’ thoughts and feelings, and interesting language.

Buy it: Joy Ride on Amazon

20. Powwow Day by Traci Sorell

Book cover for Powwow Day as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

It’s the day of the tribal powwow, but River is worried. She’s been sick and can’t join in as she usually does. The healing dance her friends and family perform inspires her to keep getting better. Use this to model the impact of using different sentence lengths. Intentional line-breaks and onomatopoeia make the text feel almost like poetry too.

Buy it: Powwow Day on Amazon

21. Love Birds by Jane Yolen

Book cover for Love Birds as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

Jon doesn’t have any friends yet in his new town, but he keeps busy birding, his favorite pastime. A funny coincidence in the woods introduces him to his first new friend, a fellow birder. The author wrote this as a companion to the classic Owl Moon, one of our longtime favorite mentor texts for narrative writing. Use it to model how to include details about sounds and setting.

Buy it: Love Birds on Amazon

22. Soul Food Sunday by Winsome Bingham

Book cover for Soul Food Sunday as an example of narrative writing
Amazon

Every Sunday the whole extended family gathers at Granny’s for a big meal. Today, Granny invites her grandson to help prepare the family’s favorite dishes for the first time. From grating the cheese to washing the grit from the greens, he learns about each crucial step. Use this to model how to break down an experience into small parts and describe them in more detail.

Buy it: Soul Food Sunday on Amazon

23. The Electric Slide and Kai by Kelly J. Baptist

Book cover for The Electric Slide and Kai as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

As his family prepares to attend a big wedding, Kai desperately wants to impress his granddad with his dance moves so that he’ll give him a “dance nickname” like other members of the family. Use this to teach students to add their thoughts, goals, and emotions to their narrative writing, and to show, not tell, using dialogue and characters’ actions.

Buy it: The Electric Slide and Kai on Amazon

24. A Thousand White Butterflies by Jessica Betancourt-Perez and Karen Lynn Williams

Book cover for A Thousand White Butterflies
Amazon

Isabella recently immigrated to the United States from Colombia and is eager to start school and make friends. But an unexpected snow day changes her big plans. Use this to model writing precise sentences and to show how a character’s emotions change during a story. If you have bilingual students, this is also a nice one to show how to weave in words from another language.

Buy it: A Thousand White Butterflies on Amazon

25. A Bed of Stars by Jessica Love

Book cover for A Bed of Stars as an example of mentor texts for narrative writing
Amazon

This is one of our new favorite mentor texts for personal narrative writing to share when we’re encouraging students to write stories about problems or challenges. When a child feels too anxious to sleep, their dad plans a camping trip in the family pickup truck. Their conversations under the stars help ease bedtime worries. Study excerpts to talk about the power of weaving dialogue into narrative writing.

Buy it: A Bed of Stars on Amazon

26. Heart Berry Bling by Jenny Kay Dupuis

Book cover for Heart Berry Bling
Amazon

This story of a girl’s afternoon spent with her grandmother is ideal for nudging upper elementary students to extend their narrative writing. From Granny’s phone chatter to the colors of the beads to the smells and tastes of their fry bread lunch, the sensory details bring Maggie’s time beading and chatting to life. Maggie’s experience making beaded earrings—including her frustration and, eventually, pride—is a helpful example for kids about how to describe a process within a narrative so readers can imagine it.

Buy it: Heart Berry Bling on Amazon

27. A Space for Me by Cathryn Falwell

Book cover for A Space for Me
Amazon

An older brother gets tired of sharing his room with his annoying little bro, so he decides to build his own space in his yard. Both brothers learn from the experience and end up finding common ground together. Use this to teach about sticking close to a meaningful theme to write a focused narrative.

Buy it: A Space for Me on Amazon

28. My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

Amazon

A young girl tells the tale of a motorcycle ride around her neighborhood with her Papi. Use this to model ways to characterize an important person throughout a story. It’s also great for modeling how to use vibrant descriptions and for building energy across the arc of a narrative.

Buy it: My Papi Has a Motorcycle on Amazon

29. A Map Into the World by Kao Kalia Yang

Book cover for A Map Into the World
Amazon

A girl moves to a new house and welcomes twin baby brothers to her family. Next door, an elderly neighbor grieves the loss of his wife. Use this to show students how describing what each character does or says in a situation can help create a complete scene. Also explore strategies for conveying the passage of time.

Buy it: A Map Into the World on Amazon

30. Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina

Book cover for Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away
Amazon

Two best friends spend a final day together before one of them moves away. This one is full of heart, with equal parts sadness and sweetness. Use this to teach … well, everything. Model strong leads and endings, how to use small details to create a mood, and how to do justice to a particularly emotional experience by telling it step-by-step.

Buy it: Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away on Amazon

31. Watercress by Andrea Wang

Book cover for Watercress
Amazon

When a girl’s parents spot watercress growing on the roadside, they pull over to pick it so they can make a meal reminiscent of their native China. The girl hates the whole experience but ends up appreciating it more as she learns what it means to her family. Add this to your mentor texts for narrative writing­ for when you work on revising for tighter, more precise language. Imagine how this narrative might have started out and compare that to its sparse but incredibly powerful final text. Also, share the author’s note, in which she describes the experience that led to this book, to teach about how to choose meaningful narrative topics.

Buy it: Watercress on Amazon

32. On the Trapline by David A. Robertson and Julie Flett

Book cover for On the Trapline
Amazon

A boy visits his grandfather’s old trapline in the northern wilderness, which is steeped in memories. Besides being a beautiful example of personal narrative, this is a fascinating exploration of Cree tradition for kids. Use this to model how to include details and dialogue to explain things to readers and for planning an interesting structure for your narrative. (In this case, it’s a repeating line at the end of each section that explains a Cree word.) It’s also a nice example of how to weave memories of the past into a present-tense narrative.

Buy it: On the Trapline on Amazon

Plus, check out our favorite mentor texts for how-to or procedural writing and opinion writing.

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Update your stack of mentor texts for narrative writing to bring students' stories to life in new and exciting ways.